Spartacus, the Starz Original Series

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My husband and I finally put the nail in the cross on one of my favorite television shows ever. Spartacus, a Starz original series, has been airing since 2010, and it is one of the only shows I have followed religiously. TV isn’t something I normally get too worked up about. I usually just watch whatever my husband or others want to watch with me. Spartacus is one of the few TV shows I actively pursued on my own (in the beginning, before I got everyone else hooked). My ultimate cult classic favorite show is Xena: Warrior Princess. As it so happens, I learned Lucy Lawless (Xena) was cast in this show, as her producer husband Robert Tapert and pal Sam Raimi (both of whom worked on Xena) were producing Spartacus. And, as assumed in the title, the series is based on the legend of Spartacus, the gladiator slave of Rome who led a rebellion against the Republic. I’ve been fascinated nearly my entire life with ancient Greek and Roman culture and mythology. Overall, a win-win scenario.

Oh, and did I mention the abundance of gore and sex? Spartacus, like HBO hit series True Blood and Game of Thrones, is not bound by limitations so the writers reveled in pushing the boundaries. More than the HBO series I just mentioned… by leagues. This is polarizing to a lot of people, depending on their stomachs and tolerance of soft-core porn. Me? Didn’t bother me in the slightest.  I use video games and television to sedate my basest of interests when it comes to violence and sex. In fact, without a lot of the violence (some of the sex, but not quite so much) the series would lose a lot of its authenticity and overall rawness. Spartacus is a raw, emotional, and unpredictable show. My husband, who excels at predicting future events in television and movies, often said, “Oh my God,” or, “I wasn’t expecting that!”

I enjoy writing, reading, and language. Anyone, with or without an ear for lingual nuances, will immediately pick up on the well-written and exemplary dialogue in this series. It is poetic. The cast also delivery their lines flawlessy and make it sound completely natural to them. No awkward moments or forced lines here. Every battle cry is a scream for blood. I recognized but a few of the cast from other movies and shows, but even the unknowns acted with impressive skill.

Whenever I watch overly-intimate nude scenes I can’t help but imagine the awkwardness the actors must have felt. Yet every time they brought their A game and followed through with the actions in perfect character, whether it be a slave standing still in their birthday suit ripe for objectification by their Roman masters, or an all out sex scene. Speaking of nudity, I praise Spartacus for sticking to its claim to authenticity. The writers did not refrain from showing full frontal male nudity as well as female nudity. In a show about gladiators and slaves, you’re just as likely to see naked men as well as women, and rightfully so. Instead of using nudity as an excuse to objectify women as we so often see in most programming, they were careful to use it as a tool towards an accurate portrayal of life in a ludus or what one might see at a brothel.

The show’s namesake, Spartacus, is but one of a dozen characters with an astounding personal journey. While Spartacus transforms from unwilling slave to grief stricken revenge monger to battle commander, the stories of those around him prove to be even more fascinating. If you enjoy entertainment with diverse and well-written supporting characters, Spartacus fits the bill. The villains, while mainly Romans with political or monetary influence, were still written with interesting facets to their personality. I loved to hate some, hated loving some, and just plain hated others. My absolutely favorite Roman adversary is Ilithyia, played by the talented and beautiful Viva Bianca. Ilithyia was deliciously evil and devious, always plotting and butting heads with Lucretia (played by Lucy Lawless). The female characters are fascinating. Watching how they plot and conspire to work their magic in a patriarchal society where they are only one step above slaves was too much fun. I can’t divulge much without ruining the show… All I’ll say is that she is not above performing the most despicable acts to get what she wants. I still couldn’t help but have an immense girl crush on her.

As Spartacus’ story evolves from scheming inside of a ludus, to gladiator battles in the arena, and back and forth (a cycle that was beginning to grow stale) the series takes a violent twist to massive battle scenes in open scenery. It is all out war in the final season. The cinematography crew handled the adjustment and increased demands fluidly. The technical aspects of the show transition as seamlessly as the writing and characters. The special effects used in Spartacus suit the flavor of the show well. They mimicked the movie 300 (another one of my favorites. Surprise, surprise!) with the slow motion actions and blood spraying about. As visceral and gritty as this series is, the almost comical blood fountains from time to time take away some of the edge. Because, really, I’d need to see some proof to believe blood spouts out that far when someone gets stabbed. The 3D cameras utilized in some of the scenes in the final season completely blew me away in the midst of all these epic battles.

I’d also like to tip my hat to the costume designers. Their work with the rebel slaves’ attire when they were out on their own scavenging for clothing and supplies is great. Much of their clothing consists of layers of tattered garb. Naevia still has too much make up. But Crixus, who went from a perfectly shaved undefeated gladiator, becomes a shaggy, hairy-nippled outcast. None of the men are clean-shaven. Or clean, for that matter. I also really like Spartacus’ armor in the final season. It reflects back on a certain symbol referenced quite often in the first season.

Overall, I’m giving a big “Job Well Done” to the creative minds that contributed to this amazing series. Aside from the final season, I’ve watched every episode at least 3 times and every viewing is more enjoyable than the last. It is safe for me to say this is my new favorite television series…. but NOT safe to watch in front of your children!

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